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By Angela Maas
Fire Safety/Protection Article Use Policy
A potential problem with fire system upgrades right off the bat occurs when “a complete building survey and development of a basis of design, deficiency list, and building code/standards analysis were not adequately prepared or signed off on by the owner,” says Carrigan. This can lead to the “misapplication of codes and standards” and problems with the type of occupancy if the building use is not approved or there is not a valid certificate of occupancy for the building.“It is important to conduct a thorough facility survey,” says Muller. “Examine all available existing documentation, especially existing sequence of operations.”
Carrigan calls the initial survey and basis of design “the most important part of any fire/life safety upgrade project. There are so many items in this phase of the project that if not addressed will cause major delays and cost overruns,” he says. The survey verifies existing conditions and potential deficiencies that may need to be addressed. “Building code/standards analysis must also be completed during this phase to ensure proper application,” Carrigan says.
Once the basis of design is prepared and accepted by the owner, the next step is to consult with the local authority having jurisdiction — usually the fire department or building department — to confirm the project approach and filing strategy. The goal of this consultation, says Muller, “is to get concurrence from that local authority that the scope of the project is within the requirements of applicable codes and standards or determine if there are any items the local authority will require beyond what is being planned.”
That consultation is also the time to raise items that may be negotiated, such as whether a phased approach to the project would be acceptable and the timing of the overall upgrade. He recommends getting some form of concurrence from the local authority in writing if possible. However, says Muller, “sometimes this is not possible. In that case, the best course is to send a summary letter or email to the jurisdiction detailing the results and understanding from the meeting, and ask the local authority to respond if that person recalls anything different.” For certain buildings, failing to contact the local landmark and historic preservation commission may be an issue, says Carrigan.
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